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Trajanus07 Aug 2017 4:45 a.m. PST

Anyone ever read a "multi-layered group biography"? If not the latest book from Stephen Sears gives you a chance!

I must confess I didn't think I had, until I remembered Freeman's "Lee's Lieutenants", then the penny dropped! In a lot of ways this 800+ page monster is similar in approach but it doesn't contain any of the potted individual biographies of Freeman's work, or dare I say it, his partisan approach.

The book takes the careers of the High Command of the Army of the Potomac and through the course of the war in the East traces the highs, lows, failures and ultimate success of what it terms "Lincoln's Army". Bad news for all those interested in the West but as the author explains the geographical nature of the conflict and the security of Washington and the Federal Government had influence on a relationship that didn't exist elsewhere.

The book is jammed with detail and informative interaction, on the commanders relationships with each other, subordinates and Lincoln. It's written in Sears's customary engaging manner that combines yards of research, with a flowing narrative. Indeed there is so much in it that one could hand a complete novice the book and by the end they would know pretty much all they need to know about the Eastern Theatre 1861 -1865.

As a result, I was concerned that I would have seen it all before, same old names, same old battles but the personal interaction is weaved into the familiar passage of the War keeping the whole thing feeling fresher than it has any right to be. I dare say similar information, possibly in more depth, can be found in individual biographies of the "usual suspects" and in individual campaign histories but Sear's book works as a continuing stream of events and personalities in a very attractive way and still gives "I didn't know that!" moments as part of the deal.

Like all authors there may be the occasional detail people might quibble with but to be honest the sheer volume of "the volume" left me for one, just marvelling at the effort and not inclined to question minutia.

If you like Sear's work you will love this. If you haven't read his stuff before, this is a hell of a place to start, size wise but well worth it. If you don't like him you probably won't have read this far but I'd still encourage you to give it a go!

Lincoln's Lieutenant's The High Command of the Army of The Potomac
Stephen W. Sears
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

donlowry07 Aug 2017 8:45 a.m. PST

I've seen it advertised, but haven't read it. I resent the fact that it only covers the Army of the Potomac -- Lincoln was commander-in-chief of all of the armies, not just the AotP. Perhaps it should have been titled McClellan's Lieutenants (and Successors).

Trajanus07 Aug 2017 9:27 a.m. PST

Lincoln was commander-in-chief of all of the armies

That's true Don. So was Jeff Davis and Freeman never wrote about anything but the ANV!

I note that Sears was 85 on 27 July. Personally, if I can produce a 884 page book on anything when I'm 85 I'll be happy.

Hell, if I make it to 85 I'll be happy! :o)

Bill N07 Aug 2017 10:25 a.m. PST

For some time I have said ACW scholarship would benefit if each major army received the same type of coverage provided by Lee's Lieutenants. I am looking forward to seeing this. And if anyone decides to do one on the Confederate Army of Tennessee for a reasonable price, I will buy it.

donlowry08 Aug 2017 8:44 a.m. PST

Yeah, but Freeman's title wasn't Jeff Davis's Lieutenants.

Bill N08 Aug 2017 9:44 a.m. PST

In fairness the title Lee's Lieutenants while iconic is also technically incorrect. Before June 1, 1862 the various commands that Freeman studies were not just under Lee's command. There were also commands under Beauregard, Johnston, Magruder, etc.

John Miller Inactive Member09 Aug 2017 2:56 p.m. PST

Trajanus: I wasn't sure about this book, mostly because, like you mention above, maybe I've seen it all before. After reading your comments above it would seem I have to get this. The AOP being my chief area of interest in the ACw this appears to be required reading. Thanks, John Miller

Haitiansoldier Inactive Member11 Aug 2017 6:00 p.m. PST

Sears is such a good author, I'll have to get this.

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